The American Bar Association, though its Section of Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law, offers to the public some good, free personal & estate planning primers, online.
First, check out ABA's "Guide to Wills & Estates", 2nd Edition (2004):
Estate planning is for everyone — it's a way of caring for your loved ones, seeing they are provided for, and making sure your hard-earned property is distributed according to your wishes.This Guide is downloadable in its entirety; or it can be viewed online by chapters, all in PDF fromat, which include:
Learn what you need to do to save money and assure that your plans are carried out exactly as you wish. * * *
Ch. 1: Getting StartedThe Guide also can be purchased online at the ABA's Webstore for $17.00.
Ch. 2: Transferring Property without a Will
Ch. 3: Making a Will
Ch. 4: Trusts
Ch. 5: Living Trusts
Ch. 6: Common Estate Planning Situations
Ch. 7: Special Considerations
Ch. 8: Death and Taxes
Ch. 9: Changing Your Mind: Changing, Adding to, or Revoking Your Will or Trust
Ch. 10: Choosing the Executor or Trustee
Ch. 11: Planning Now to Make Things Easier for Your Family
Ch. 12: When You Can't Make the Decision: Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Other Disability Issues
Next, check out the advisories reposted by the ABA on its consumer webpage dedicated to "Wills & Estates".
This section contains basic information about estate planning and will writing. Click on the links below for more information on this subject area. [Note: Some are posted in PDF, others in HTML.]Then, read the extensive "Estate Planning FAQs" (last updated 03/25/05) posted for public education by the ABA-RPT&E Section with this purpose in mind:
To provide answers to the most common questions about the estate planning process, probate and administration of estates, transfer taxes and tax planning for your assets, and disability planning.These are some of the FAQ's topics:
I) Estate Planning OverviewAlso, look for the ABA's explanation of Healthcare Directives found under the heading "Law for Older Americans".
II) An Introduction to Wills
III) Revocable Trusts
V) Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, and Advance Health Care Directives
VI)The Probate Process
VII) Planning With Retirement Benefits
VIII) Guidelines for Individual Executors and Trustees
IX) The Lawyer's Role
X) Who We Are
XI) Tax Changes From 2001
For the most current information offered by the ABA on such topics, you can read the latest edition of the RPTE eReport (October, 2007), which contains "Trust & Estate News".
Since October 31, 2006, these bi-monthly RPTE eReports (which are archived online) have noted both recent developments for trust & estate practitioners, and news for section members.
These are all good, generic treatments of these topics that can provide orientation & background.
However, since many such laws on these topics are state-specific -- and not at all uniform -- seek advice and conduct planning based on specific facts, considered under a particular state's laws, utilizing the services of an experienced practitioner.